Tuesday, 5 January 2010


With the lecture on Ankhtifi next week you might find this interesting. Sent to me by Michael on the roof.

Precis of Bill Manley's lecture on Ankhtify. It will be interesting to compare with next Saturday's lecture.
Dr Bill Manley
Egypt in chaos: explaining the end of the Old Kingdom

Rather like ‘the causes of the first world war’ we probably think we know the reasons for the end of the Old Kingdom and the fall of Egypt into disorder and chaos; the old and feeble Pepi II losing control, the rise in power of regional rulers, foreign invasion, climate change and poor inundations resulting in famine, even the strain on resources from building vast pyramids.
Not so. In this interesting talk by Bill Manley we were made to rethink the First Intermediate Period in the light of recent research and reinterpretation of excavations. In the first place, the First Intermediate Period lasted about 150 years. It was only in the last 40 or so that there was the disruption of civil war.
The long reign of Pepi II (96 years gives us no suggestion that there was any weakening of his power. Indeed it is probable that this long period of stability would have increased prosperity. Petrie’s belief that there was foreign invasion has now been discredited.
There is absolutely no evidence of this.
Undoubtedly this was a period of increased regional government, but there is little to suggest that this was in opposition to the Pharaoh, rather that this decentralisation illustrates the king’s confidence in his prosperous and growing country. That the country was affluent with a strong government is illustrated by the development of trade in the north and the rise in immigration from less stable countries. The regions were responsible for their people, the production of food and maintaining the military. The nomarch was no longer buried with his king in a pyramid complex, but built his own tomb in the regions near his own people.
If the country was poor, divided and threatened by famine, then the tomb of Ankhtify at Mo’alla is hard to explain. It is exceptionally large. The importance of reading inscriptions carefully and in context was clearly demonstrated to us. Apparently the suggestion is that famine was so widespread and severe that they were reduced to cannibalism, even eating their own children, but a close examination of the inscriptions shows that far from eating their children they were perfectly capable of looking after their own people and were exporting grain both north and south. Ankhtify says ‘it is my grain that has gone to Wawat and Abydos. All the south may die of hunger but it will never happen in this district’. So far from suffering famine, he was producing a surplus!
The rather crude art of the period is another reason often cited as a sign of the turmoil and decline of the period. It is now thought that this is more likely to be the result of the freedom of the regions from central control and their palace-trained craftsmen, resulting perhaps in more crudely executed art but with lively and innovative interpretations. There is evidence of distinct regional styles.
In addition the democratisation of the country meant that there was an increase in the size of the élite population. Many more people were buried in tombs; it was no longer the preserve of the very closest to the king. His officials and soldiers also had their own tombs, so high standards of tomb production would have been difficult to maintain. What Bill calls the IKEA-isation of tomb art. Also the poor geological conditions in some of the southern regions would have made the production of perfectly smooth surfaces in the tombs difficult.
The end of the First Intermediate Period was precipitated by the Thebans, who opposed regional development and wanted to take over control of the whole nation. That they succeeded, perhaps accounts for the view of this period that has come down to us. As they say ‘history is written by the victors’.


Grumpy Yet Amusing said...

Hi Jane,

I am leading a Kiwi tour group and will be in Luxor Jan 13th-17th; are any lectures scheduled and are they open attendance?

best wishes


Jane Akshar said...

Lectures are every Saturday in the season at 7pm in the Mummification Museum and open to all. Look forward to seeing you there

sue c said...

I enjoyed this piece by Michael-on-the-roof, how did the lecture go on Saturday?